Bicycling in a State of Grace

As an alternative to driving or flying, and to show that it could be done, my husband, Kim, and I bicycled 280 miles to the Friends General Conference Gathering in Blacksburg, Virginia. Most of our four-day journey was on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a comparatively safe place to bicycle because of a 45-mile-an-hour speed limit, no commercial vehicles, and fewer cars. Our last 38 miles, however, were on busy Route 8 leading us from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Christiansburg. Route 8 is narrow and has no shoulder to speak of. Traffic was brisk and heavy with passenger cars and pickup trucks doing their Saturday driving.

From the relative calm and serenity of the parkway, I was shocked into the reality of "sharing" the road with vehicles going 55 miles per hour or more. Gone was the forest overstory providing shade. After seven miles on Route 8, I was scared, tense, and breathing harder than necessary. I dreaded the next 31 miles. Several cars had come so close to my left elbow that I felt the air stream push me to the right. Some cars honked. What were they saying? Get off my road? Hello? The road was full of patched potholes. It was difficult to keep my front tire on the white line. I was clenching my jaw and feeling as if I needed to change something quickly.

To modify my attitude and force myself onward, I started envisioning Kim and me traveling on our bikes on that highway in a flexible but strong, clear, and impenetrable capsule of safety. The capsule emitted an energy shield of protective light and friendly vibrations. I remembered some of the psalms that are particularly soothing and prayed for a safe journey and the strength to continue.

It worked. I was able to make it safely to the Gathering in relative calm. Although I did not recognize it at the time, I describe now what I felt then as "being in a state of grace." I had heard the term before but this is the first time I had the personal experience of actually being in that grace. I was only sure we were being protected and guided. This has given me the opportunity to begin to recognize the many other times when I am in a state of grace and am not able to see it.

Susan Carlyle

Susan Carlyle is a member of Asheville (N.C.) Meeting, and of New Moon Worship Group in Barnardsville, N.C., where she and Kim are homesteader-activists. She is active in Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting and Association, and its Ecological Concerns Network.